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Category Archives: Realistic Fiction


Happy new year, merry late Christmas, happy really late Thanksgiving, and happy super late Halloween. Yeah, I’ve been kind of disappearing when it comes to blogging recently, but I just haven’t had the time to get on posting when I start having the craving to make comics and I have to get my creativity flowing and it just takes a while. Luckily, I’m back in time for the break of 2014, and let’s see what it has to offer.

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Let’s look at some movies.

  • Ride Along - What you’d get if you took Friday, turned it into another cheesy action comedy, and replaced Chris Tucker with Kevin Hart. (1/17/14)
  • I, Frankenstein - Rebooting the story of Frankenstein for a new generation, and now we have Harvey Dent as Frankenstein. (1/24/14)
  • The Lego Movie - You don’t need to check your monitor, this actually exists. And the trailer looks surprisingly epic. And the roster is pretty impressive–if you consider Channing Tatum, Will Ferrell, and Jonah Hill to collectively be “impressive”. (2/7/14)
  • Muppets Most Wanted - The Muppets go touring in Europe, and the most wanted criminal in the world happens to look just like Kermit. You can connect the dots. (3/21/14)
  • Divergent - The movie of the book. It’s the future, Chicago is split into five factions, Tris takes a test, she doesn’t fit into a faction cuz she’s Divergent, she discovers something sinister happening in her utopian society, blah blah blah. It has a budget bigger than that of The Hunger Games, so it better be worth its hype. (3/21/14)
  • Noah - Basically, when God was unsatisfied with the world and tried to bring apocalypse to it and Noah built that ark for all that animals: the movie. Just as it was told in the Bible. Oh, and Emma Watson shows up. (3/28/14)
  • Rio 2 - Apparently people liked that movie, and it looks like the same movie except it’s in the Amazon and we learn that Jewel has a dad and–incoming narrative hook–his habitat is in danger! “Le gasp” indeed. (4/11/14)
  • The Amazing Spider Man 2 - Electro and the Rhino. The only new things about this sequel. (5/2/14)
  • Legend of Oz: Dorothy’s Return - This movie tries to add something new to something that’s already perfect. Five new characters (a giant talking marshmallow, a china doll, a “tree-turned tugboat”, and an owl), and the biggest threat is that some Jester is going to turn iconic Ozzians (that’s what it’s called right?) into marionettes. Really? (5/9/14)
  • Godzilla - Finally, something that looks good. Godzilla ’98 was the Razzie-winning black sheep of the series (the only thing it got right was its visuals, and I think they screwed even that up), but luckily this cream looks big enough and strong enough to cover that nasty zit. Anyway, this movie is Godzilla vs. malevolent creatures “bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance”. Does this mean another Pacific Rim, or is this a metaphor saying that it’s Godzilla vs the real monsters–us? (5/16/14, which is two months earlier than Japan. Oh, the irony.)
  • Maleficent - A Sleeping Beauty prequel-reboot combo through the eyes of the bad guy. This is new. And what’s this, they cast Angelina Jolie as Maleficent? And what’s this…they made Sleeping Beauty a teenager? Uh… (5/30/14)
  • The Fault In Our Stars - The classic love story between a teen girl with thyroid cancer and an ex-basketball player who lost his right leg to osteosarcoma gets adapted to the big screen. It’s a freaking maple tree, it looks so sappy. (6/6/14)
  • How To Train Your Dragon 2 - I didn’t know you could Neville Longbottom so much in four years. (That’s right, it’s a verb now describing drastic changes in courage and heroism over time.) Anyway, Hiccup took a few levels in badbutt and new adventures with him and Toothless await. (6/13/14)
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction - It’s an entirely new arc and it stars an entirely new cast, so can you blame me for throwing it under the bus immediately? If it grosses over a billion, I will lose faith in the sci-fi action genre forever. (6/27/14)
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - Caesar and his boys vs. the survivors of the virus. The prize? Supremacy as the dominant species of the world. (7/11/14)
  • The Boxtrolls - From the guys who brought you those scary stop-motion movies (Paranorman and Coraline) comes another seemingly-not-scary stop-motion movie where underground trash collectors called Boxtrolls who raised an orphan who now has to save them from an exterminator. What. (9/26/14)
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day - I don’t even have to explain this. If you said you didn’t read that book as a kid, I wouldn’t believe you for a second. (10/10/14)
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 - Katniss leads the districts in a rebellion against the Capitol and has to make a lot of crucial decisions as the war of fate escalates quickly with horrific consequences. (11/21/14)
  • Home - I can’t believe what I’m about to type. They made a movie on The True Meaning of Smekday with Sheldon Cooper, Rihanna, Steve Martin, and they even got J.Lo! No, the real J.Lo! Words cannot express my elation. (11/26/14)
  • Exodus - Basically when all the Jews left Egypt and Moses led them: the movie. Just as recalled in the Bible (or The Prince of Egypt). In this case, all the Jews leave Egypt and Christian Bale leads them. Uh… (12/12/14)
  • The Hobbit: There and Back Again - Didn’t think the end of the Bilbo arc would be so near, would it? (12/17/14)

Most anticipatedHome (Mockingjay P1 was a close second)

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Now, some video games.

  • Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition - Basically Tomb Raider for next-gen consoles. (1/28/14; PS4, XBO)
  • Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z - 2012’s DBZ for Kinect was an embarrassment to the game series, so Namco Bandai wants to try to redeem themselves. If you liked Zenkai Battle Royale, the game mechanics aren’t too different. With a redundant name like that, it could very much be digging its own grave.  (1/28/14; PS3, X360, Vita)
  • Lighting Returns: Final Fantasy XIII - This game picks up where XIII-2 left off and ties up the loose ends of XIII‘s story, part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis subseries later to feature the mobile Agito as well as FFXV. (2/11/14; PS3, X360)
  • Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare - This is the strangest art shift I’ve ever seen in anything. Looks to be an interesting shooter. (2/18/14; XBO, X360)
  • Thief - Master thief Garrett popularized the stealth genre just as well as Solid Snake could, and now he’s getting a reboot. However, it risks mimicking the already successful Dishonored, so let’s hope it has some fresh tricks up their sleeve. (2/25/14; PC, PS3, PS4, X360, XBO)
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth South Park has already made a huge mark on American animated television, helping codify the raunchy, off-color adult humor that we see in most animated sitcoms. Among many people, I first got a taste of the game via Game Informer, and it seems to be the RPG of the year…if it doesn’t get delayed again. (3/4/14; PC, PS3, X360)
  • Titanfall - Fast-paced action, cloud services, and robots. It’s not surprising that the game had a huge splash at E3 and won sixty awards at the show! People are already saying it’ll be the next big landmark in the FPS genre, and be the secret weapon for the One. Wait…it’s multiplayer-only? Uh… (3/11/14; PC, X360, XBO)
  • Dark Souls II - Dark Souls did pretty good a couple years ago, and this sequel appears to be just as hard. The game boasts a juicier graphics engine and better AI, and it might not even have an easy mode. So if you don’t like hard games, step away. But if you like challenges, be my guest.  (3/11/14; PC, PS3, X360)
  • Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes - To hold you off until Phantom Pain, Konami has the first half of the MGSV arc for you. This picks up where Peace Walker left off, chronologically one year later and nine years before Phantom Pain. (3/18/14; PS3, PS4, X360, XBO)
  • Infamous: Second Son - The One has Killer Instinct, and the PS4’s trying to combat that with the new Infamous, with a new character and new twists on old powers. (3/21/14; PS4)
  • Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Apparently now Diablo‘s getting into the expansion pack game like Warcraft, and here’s the first of what could be a plentiful add-on series. (3/25/14; PC, Mac, PS4)
  • Destiny - Bungie’s first post-Halo game, and my most anticipated game of the year. (Plus it’s on 360, so there’s non need to upgrade!) A prosperous period of advancement has screeched to a halt with the Collapse, after which mankind could face extinction. You are one of the survivors, the Guardians of the City, and you must protect the little remains of humanity from demolition. (9/9/14; X360, XBO, PS3, PS4)
  • Sunset Overdrive - The game’s bouncy visuals and enthralling gameplay put it really high on my most-anticipated list–actually, it’s bested only by Destiny. It’s like Viewtiful Joe in 3D as a shooter. There’s gonna be ziplines and wall-running and even some acrobatics, so I expect some Mirror’s Edge thrown in the puree as well. It’s also gonna be using Microsoft’s cloud services a lot, but I’m not a cloud gamer. Still excited. (sometime; XBO)
  • The Sims 4 The Sims 3 and its umpteen expansion packs was one of the defining parts of my childhood, so I expect The Sims 4 to be way better. The PC sales of the past three games have been staggering, and I expect nothing less than true brilliance, whether it be better graphics or better mechanics. However, you do need an account on Origin (think EA’s take on Steam) and Internet access as the game initially installs. Kind of chips at my hopes, but it still looks awesome. (Q3/Q4; PC, Mac)
  • Watch Dogs - I’ve heard about this game for a while, and my thoughts of it have whittled down to “Dishonored with a hacker and none of the cool super powers.” There’s also some parkour promised to show up, and some cover-based TPS stuff too (Hitman much?). And for a game that has five collector’s editions (special, Vigilante, Uplay Exclusive, Limited, and Dedsec), it seems like it’ll match the hype pretty well. (Q2; PC, PS3, PS4, WiiU, X360, XBO)

Most anticipatedDestiny (Sunset Overdrive was a close second)

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Now, some upcoming books.

  • Hollow City by Ransom Riggs - In the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Jacob and his Welsh homies go to London where all those creepy children are at. Miss P’s bro Caul is able to steal the kids’ “abilities”. Cue another fight for survival. (1/14/14; 352 pgs)
  • Sorry You’re Lost by Matt Blackstone - Denny “Donuts” Murphy has just suffered the passing of his mom, and to cope with that he becomes a class clown. But in Donuts’ core is a happy place where his mother still lives and his dad doesn’t watch TV all day. Donut and his buddy try to score dates for the year-end dance, a mission in which Donuts learns some important morals that could change him for the better. (1/21/14, 320 pgs)
  • Almost Super by Marion Jensen - Each leap year at an exact time, each 12+-year old member of the Baileys gets a superpower. The two newest recipients, Rafter and Benny, get let down with suckish powers. The big bad of the story ends up sparking a war between her family and the Baileys. To be honest, I lost them at “superpower”. (1/21/14; 256 pgs)
  • Cress by Marissa Meyer - In the third entry of the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and her band of misfits are still plotting to overthrow Queen Levana. Their best hope is to go to Cress, an OP hacker who ironically is searching for them (eeeeviiillll). Stuff happens. (2/4/14; 560 pgs)
  • Timmy Failure: Now Look What You’ve Done by Stephan Pastis - In the sequel to Mistakes Were Made, there’s a school competition to find a globe for a cash prize, but someone’s trying to hijack. It’s up to Timmy and his polar-bear partner Total and his new eccentric ally Great-Aunt Colander to find an end to the madness. (2/25/14; 288 pgs)
  • Game Over, Pete Watson by Joe Schreiber and Andy Rash - A boy finds out his dad is a superspy that is trapped inside a game, so he has to use his gaming skills to enter the game and rescue him. To be honest, I lost them at “superspy”. (3/11/14, 224 pgs)
  • Sean Rosen Is Not For Sale by Jeff Baron - Y’know Sean, that guy who’s trying to pitch a movie idea to Hollywood? Alright, so now not only is he working on his script, but he has school, track, dog-walking, podcasts, and keeping his secret from his parents, all while a private detective has been sent to find out about Sean. To be honest, I lost them at “podcasts”. (3/18/14; 384 pgs)
  • The Ninja Librarians by Jennifer Swann Downey - It just sounds dumb, doesn’t it? Wait until you hear the plot. Alright, so a girl and her bro are chasing her mongoose through a library when they get into the janitor’s closet and fall into a secret pathway to the HQ of a society of…y’know. There’s a betrayal, she and her pals take the blame, and they need to clear their names. To be honest, I lost them at “mongoose”. (4/1/14; 384 pgs)
  • Poached by Stuart Gibbs - In the sequel to Belly Up, a horrible prank set up by a school bully leaves a koala missing. Teddy gets thrown under the bus since he’s the only one coming and going on camera, and he needs to find the real culprit and fast, because juvie is calling his name. (4/8/14; 336 pgs)
  • Renegade by Debra Driza - That android Mila I was talking about meets a boy who joins her to find some guy who knows about her past but people are looking for her. Basically, it’s the same book with some boy. (5/13/14; 448 pgs)
  • The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan - The fifth and final installment of Heroes of Olympus. Many are either fighting their emotions of seeing it go or complaining loudly about how they have to wait a year to see how it all ends. Mother Earth “Gaea” is still a strong foe and her giants must be stopped before the Feast of Spes where she plans to kill two demigods to receive (title) to awaken. To be honest, I lost them at “Gaea”. (10/7/14; 608 pgs)

Most anticipated: I don’t even know.

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Well, I think I did pretty good to sum up the year! Leave anything you think I missed in the comments. Here’s to a great new year that’s bound to be full of awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!

Stay classy,

~S~ 8-)

Video of the Week: “Why I love my Honda VT750” by Nick Bertke aka Pogo, the guy whose mixes I’ve been uploading and gushing about to a fault. In this video, he drives around on his motorcycle, talks about it, admires the vista, and explains why the original Star Wars trilogy will always be superior to the new trilogy. All while we get to see some beautiful Australian scenery.

My favorite video from 2013.

The cutest thing I’ve ever seen.



If you’ve been following me and my good friend the Jolly Good Bookie on Google+, you would already know of some grim news I must tell you. The Bookie found out that he wasn’t a real person and was just something I created for my own benefits, so he quit. That’s right, the JGB is no longer associated with Sammwak. Looks like I’m going to have to grab the reins and introduce something new. I know I haven’t made a review in a while–heck, I haven’t made a post in a while ever since school clogged my schedule. First off, I’m sorry. Secondly, I want to try something new. Once a month, I’ll release several reviews crammed into one post, alongside some news and upcoming titles in the bookverse. Welcome to BookBuzz.

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Reviews

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Fast food has received lots of osmosis in the pop culture of America. With thousands of restaurants around the country that serve millions (if not billions) of people and then plague televisions with their commercials, it’s very hard to avoid the growing phenomenon of unhealthy deliciousness. Some people love its taste, others hate its effect. But have you ever stopped to wonder how all of this came to be? In the novel Chew On This by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson, you find out just that. The matter is broken down simplistically to give you a history lesson and a behind-the-scenes look at big fast food brands and what dark secrets they’re hiding from the public. In this book, you will learn about…

  • How the hamburger was invented
  • How McDonald’s was born
  • How McDonald’s inspired the birth of tons of restaurants in its wake
  • How chickens are slaughtered
  • How fries are made
  • Why meat grinding is a more dangerous job than you think
  • What E.coli is and how lethal it can be
  • And much much more!

Chew is one of the few novels that actually gives me information and not trivia. As the tagline says, this book taught me “everything you don’t want to know about fast food”. And after reading it, I frankly did not want to know this about fast food. The writing provides an honest and fascinating undertone as the book changes subjects, and it doesn’t feel droned. They didn’t just copy and paste their research, do a little paraphrasing, and publish it. Never once was it not interesting, and it was sapid enough to the point where I’d actually want to keep reading. Few nonfiction books can pull that sensation out of me. Definitely a book you should read if you’re addicted to fast food or if you’re in an on-off relationship with it, like me.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★★★

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“I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It’s not as easy as it looks.” Thus begins the most heartwarming story of the year. Now, before I even tell you what the book is about, look at the author of it. Katherine Applegate. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Now, take away the “therine”. Now you have KA Applegate. Yes, that KA Applegate. The lady who spent the 90s writing Animorphs went on to win the Newbery Medal. Wow.

Anyway, The One and Only Ivan is about the titular Ivan, a silverback gorilla who lives the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. He has grown to living a life of people watching him all the time, and never once does he ever think about his old life in the jungle. His thoughts are about shows he’s seen and his friends Stella (an elderly elephant) and Bob (a stray dog). Above all, Ivan has a penchant for art and is always thinking about how he can capture the taste of fruit with crayons and an open imagination. Then as a baby elephant named Rudy is added to the Exit 8 crew, the tides begin to change, and Ivan must make sure the tides go in the right directions as he becomes a papa wolf for little Rudy.

As you can tell, Ivan is a very heartfelt novel that comes from a unique perspective. Never did you think a simian Shakespeare could swing in with such an amazing story. His streams of narration can hook a reader from page one and keep them there as the story unfolds in the next hundreds of pages to follow. Definitely a book that I did not see coming from the lady who wrote Animorphs, and definitely one that deserves the Newbery. Not only is it beautiful, but it also has its moments of humor. Ivan chucking “me-balls” of poop at people he hates will never not be amusing.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★★★

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James Patterson has a knack for just the right type of comedy — with the just right amount of heartwarming goodness. Whether it comes in a huge twist or a very subtle reveal, James does it right. And it’s epitomized in the first two volumes of the misadventures of Rafael “Rafe” Khatchadorian (pronounced “catch a door, Ian”). I mean, they were masterpieces! I’d love to go into detail, but I’ve already done that in some other reviews. Now, a big change is coming to Patterson’s third middle school story–Georgia’s taking the wheel. Yep, lil’ G has her own story to share in Middle School: My Brother Is A Big Fat Liar. And what a story it is.

G is starting middle school at Hills Village, the same place where Rafe left one heck of a mark. She plans to excel in all the fields her brother failed to clear the name of the Khatchadorians for good! G got so cocky, she even bet Rafe that she’d become popular. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, as everyone’s now adapted to make school a living hell for anyone with the last name of Khatchadorian. Plus, there’s the Princess Patrol, a trio of snooty mean girls who rule the school and look devilishly good doing it. They’ve got their crosshairs on G and are willing to bully her every time the chance comes.

In the wake of her troubles, G is also crushing on an adorkable boy named Sam (no, not me) and befriending a loud-talking girl named Rhonda. Out of school — get this — G plays electric guitar for a band called The Awesomes. (Rafe doesn’t think they live up to their name. Why? Because he’s Rafe.) But Rafe’s not quite done yet. He wants to make his burden of the bet a lot lighter and plans to humiliate G in the worst ways. But could G actually be able to fight her odds and emerge on top?

When I finished My Brother Is A Big Fat Liar, I was disappointed if anything. Why?

    • I finished the book the same day I started it. (I took a few days separately to read through Rafe’s books.)
    • I don’t think the book’s name is very appropriate. The Worst Years of My Life makes sense because Rafe explains why middle school was the worst years of his life. Get Me Out of Here makes sense because Rafe wants to get out of here and explains why. G does nothing to explain why her brother is a big, fat liar beyond one page; she’s too busy telling her story.
    • It has the most predictable setup of all time to the most generic ending of all time. I mean, you know the ending before it’s even close to arriving, it’s so foreseeable.
    • Rhonda is so annoying.

On the bright side, the book still have traditional Patterson gags and charm, and the climax is absolutely jaw-dropping. In Patterson’s trademark fashion, I did not see that one coming. Even though the story’s flaws are mortal in the end, it’s still a decent read to hold us by for Rafe’s next adventure.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★

The Scholastic Graphix graphic novel lineup is full of great authors. Jeff Smith (Bone), Raina Telgemeier (Smile/Drama), Doug TenNapel (Bad Island/Cardboard), among others. But a name like Kazu Kibuishi caught my eye as early as the fifth grade. I was a huge Bone fanboy at this time so I pushed the book aside. But after reading and reviewing all nine books in the series, I decided to give the first installment, The Stonekeeper, a try. Kibuishi is now on my “graphic novel authors to watch” list, because that book was grandiose.

Our story ironically begins with a bang as the main characters–Emily and her little brother Navin–are involved in a tragic car accident that kills their father. Two years later, Emily’s mom is struggling to raise her kids by herself, so she moves them into a spacious old house inherited from Emily’s great-grandpa Silas. As Emily explores her new home, she finds a stone amulet that warns her that her family’s in danger. Before she even knows what the amulet’s capable of, Emily and Navin are thrown into a mission to rescue their mother in a subterranean world full of friends and foes.

This book’s storytelling is absolutely pristine even in the limits of 192 pages; and the story’s emotions whiplash from exciting action to tearjerking drama within pages. Emily and Navin are ordinary children that you can feel for as they embark on a journey of such proportions. Also, the illustrations are crisp and beautiful and impeccably follow along the storyline. That being said, the story arc is very simplistic with not enough rising and falling actions to fill in the holes before and after the climax. It’s a book that I blazed through while at the same time understanding what was going on, and that sort of let me down. But The Stonekeeper‘s “and the adventure continues” ending paves the way to a lot of sequels I need to plow through.

FINAL SCORE: 

Remember back in May 2012 when I made a review for the last Bone book, saying that JGB Bone was coming to an end? Well, I forgot about one spinoff book (and the handbook and the prequel and the Quest for the Spark series): Bone Tall Tales featuring Tom Sniegoski. In this book, campfire myths from our old smoking pal Smiley are used to answer questions like how Boneville was made, and how the Bones got lost in the valleys.

The book was only 128 pages, so it didn’t take me that long to finish. I was very disappointed. The book is nothing but mildly entertaining stories that give me some exposition and context about the Bones, but I wanted more. More story, more action, more laughs, more pages, more Bone that I expected out of this! And to think I was so excited to read this book. Hopefully Quest for the Spark will be a saving grace, because Jeff Smith is dangling off the edge off of my “graphic novel authors to watch” list.

FINAL SCORE: 



fwb

“It’s easy to lose your soul in high school.”

Maggie has been home schooled for years now, but now she’s a big girl. She’s going to make the transition from home school to public school as she goes into the ninth grade. She has three brothers that’s been watching over her for as long as she can remember, but Maggie just feels like she won’t be able to fit in. Maggie’s life has been stalked by a gray cloud of sorrow ever since her mom hit the road. Maggie’s never had any friends outside of family, but luckily she makes two friends, Lucy and Alistair. They eat lunch with her and take her on their adventures around town, but there’s one big secret she has.

MAGGIE IS HAUNTED.

Why she’s haunted, she doesn’t know. What it’ll take to free the spirit, she has to know. School hassles mixed with a harrowing haunting has Maggie’s hands way full. But in the end, she learns to see her brothers through a different perspective and learns the true story behind her sidekick in spirit.

I came across this on Common Sense Media, and it looked like a good read. It said something about “a ghostly twist”, so that hooked my attention. Some time later, the book shows up at the school libe and I decide to check it out. Ladies and gentlemen, I finished that book the same day. Doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment for a graphic novel, but still. I’ve read all nine Bone books, and each one took me a couple days to read to capture everything on the page. With this book, I could burn through it like I did The Tale of Desperaux. But we’re not here to talk about adequate graphic novel lengths, we’re here to talk about Friends With Boys. You have to understand that this is the full-length print debut of Faith Erin Hicks, author of another graphic novel called Zombies Calling. That sounds way more interesting than this. I was disappointed when I’d closed the book. Unsatisfied, like I was missing the main entree and being given just the sides. 

If I got this and saw that Jeff Smith or Doug TenNapel had written this, I’d be highly disappointed. But I have to lay off a bit of my flak since Hicks is a pawn at this game of chess. But I’m the chess-master. I know what and when things are coming. But I didn’t expect most of the things that occurred, but for all the wrong reasonsFriends with Boys, even on my belittled standards, was very mediocre. Maggie and her friends are lovable characters, I get that. It has all of the bullying and bad words of high school, and then it has a ghost. That’s how you describe the book in one sentence. The other thing I hate is that the ghost is mute. Maggie should’ve actually taken the time to talk to her and have her tell her story instead of having some boring exposition do it for her. That would’ve made her a much better character. I also would’ve preferred the ghost to be Maggie’s age, but that’s an unimportant complaint–also, it’s not my call.

Another pet peeve I have is that everyone seems to understand what Maggie’s going through. Imagine if someone said to you, “I’m haunted by a ghost.” Would you respond with “I completely understand”, or think that they’re sliding down the slippery slope of sanity? If you chose answer A, you’re just like the characters in this book. I loathe you for that. I know that other people have much warmer thoughts for this book, but I think I’ve just wiped Hicks off of my “graphic-novel-authors-to-watch” list. The only thing I’ll acclaim the book for is that it has darn good illustrations. Friends with Boys just fell flat in my opinion.

If you think that Ghostbusters tee was product placement, wait until you read the whole thing. (L to R: Maggie, Daniel, Lloyd, Zander)

Friends with Boys may be appealing illustration-wise, but it’s just a series of misguided plot lines and stale gags with little action. Hollow, but not with enough flaws to get you to shut the book. There are certainly better graphic novels out there, but I might be willing to give Hicks a second chance if she does release again in the not-too-distant future. But for now, she hasn’t hit that sweet chord yet.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★

If you liked Friends With Boys, check out:

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I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing this! Well, you know the algorithm–tune in, well, whenever for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak! Be sure to Like this post, and if you’re new don’t forget to haunt that subscribe button! You can also find Sammwak on Google+ where you can get more news and stuff there! You can also share it to your pals on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, and more!

Stay classy,

~S~ 8-)

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is considered by many to be the greatest video game ever made…now, let’s see how that holds up when I play it. This is just the beginning of a series that is currently six episodes long. The computer fan is still annoying as ever, and there’s also a watermark. This was the most primitive stuff I could find before upgrading to what I used in my Donkey Kong 64 video (which you can find in last week’s post). But nonetheless, enjoy, and if you like this one, knock yourself out with the other five.



Hey guys it’s Sam, and welcome to the long-awaited return of Jolly Good Bookie! Now, Diary of a Wimpy Kid could easily be the most popular realistic fiction novel of all time; it has inspired a colossus of merchandise including a 3-part movie series, and it has inspired a countless number of realistic fiction titles in its wake. “Wimpy Kid clones”, I like to call them. I’ve read tons of them: Dork DiariesBig Nate, Origami Yoda, and pretty much every Andrew Clements book, most notably Lunch Money.

Now, few realistic fiction authors do it right like Kinney did; for example, Lunch Money is one of my favorite realistic fiction books. So is The School Story, also written by Clements. Most authors go wrong attempting to make their story as derivative as possible, while not paying any heed to flaws like a thin plot or poor characterization. I can list so many books that have failed to do exactly this, and most have ended up on my list of the worst books of all time. The Loser List by HN Kowitt was a standout example of this. Its plot practically screamed Wimpy Kid: the middle school misadventures of a boy obsessed with comics. I read this book a while back, and here’s what I had to say about it:

“This book is an average Wimpy Kid decoy, and believe me, I’ve read tons of those (Dork Diaries, Big Nate, etc.), so I feel almost BAD for Mr. Kinney that tons of publishers couldn’t come up with anything original. And that’s what makes The Loser List…well…a loser! The storyline is cumbersome, the illustrations are rough-felt if not violent (save for the picture where a kid got ripped in half), and it feels like just an average walk in the park, trip on the rock, and dip in the fountain.”

But I guess the story was successful enough that Kowitt made two sequels, turning Loser List into an official series. This is sequel #1, so let’s see if Kowitt brought homemade to the table, or just went out and bought some pancake mix?

“Ty Randall must die.”

In a world full of Wimpy Kid doppelgangers, there’s Danny Shine. He’s returned, he’s ready, and he’s out for revenge! In Revenge of the Loser, Shine has successfully gotten his name off of the Loser List in the girls’ bathroom. But he quickly discovers that the List has become the least of his problems–his radar is focused on Ty Randall, a new kid with two six packs–one of muscle, and one of green tea. He’s contributed to more school programs than Danny cares to remember, with the main focus being on helping the environment. So for good measure, Ty’s a hippie. He’s attracting all of the girls at lunch like a magnet with his handsome looks and his serious tone. Even Danny’s secret crush, Asia O’Neill, is falling head over heels. The jealousy just builds up to the point where Danny snaps and concocts a complex plan to do Ty justice, but unfortunately true colors are shown and Danny must desperately repair the damage before it’s too late.

Revenge of the Loser definitely has something new to offer, and the story does focus more on itself than some goofy drawings or copying and pasting from Wimpy Kid. The infamous bathroom wall graffiti does return, but that’s probably as rogue as ROTL ever gets. Well, Chantal is kind of a gold-hearted jerk who shows her true hero at the end. But besides all of these new concepts, Revenge of the Loser is almost the exact same as its predecessor. At least the plot is structured better.

It somewhat pains me to say it, but I think Danny Shine has finally done Wimpy Kid justice. There, I said it myself. Revenge of the Loser comes packed with humor and heart–albeit derivative humor and heart–and definitely puts its predecessor in the shadows. Now, let’s just see if they can keep that up for Jinx of the Loser, or better yet, Take Me To Your Loser, hitting stores this September.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★

IF YOU LIKED THAT, CHECK OUT:

  • Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid by Megan McDonald
  • Lunch Money by Andrew Clements
  • Big Nate In A Class By Himself by Lincoln Peirce
  • Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson
  • The Last Invisible Boy by Evan Kuhlman

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Because I love my fans, I’ll make this a Jolly Good Bookie double feature! Carpe diem, baby! Anyway, what if A Series of Unfortunate Events met Mysterious Benedict Society? The result would probably be School of Fear, the young-audience debut of Gitty Daneshvari. The novel takes place at a very shady institution that few people have heard of, called the School of Fear. Run by Mrs. Wellington and her assistant Schmidty, the main goal of the School of Fear is to eradicate children’s fears over the course of a summer using “unorthodox” methods. This summer’s students are Theo Bartholomew, Madeleine Masterson, Garrison Feldman, and Lulu Punchalower. Theo is terrified of general death, Maddie of bugs (notably spiders), Gary of deep water, and Lulu of confined spaces.

I loved the ominous and gothic feel of the story as it went along, and how it mixed its dark chills and clever thrills with some quality laughs to keep the prose fresh. The story is exciting albeit predictable and tedious, and definitely one I do not regret reading when I find myself awake at 7 in the morning. (No, it’s not insomnia.) It showed that a good way–if not the only way–to face your fears is to tackle them head on, and it shows how difficult life can be while crippled by phobias. This is a good book to relate to; all humans really are afraid of something.

However, to me it frankly started to fall apart around and following the shocking climax; I found myself lost in the prose quite frequently on numerous occasions. I also kept asking myself if they were ever going to conquer their fears, but luckily Daneshvari has several aces up her sleeve to shrewdly guide the story. Other than that, School of Fear is a pretty tense and exciting adventure with underachieving predictability and noticeable tedium. I would definitely read the other two sequels in the trilogy–in fact, I have my hands on Class Is NOT Dismissed as I type, and as you read.

FINAL SCORE: ★★★★

IF YOU LIKED THAT, CHECK OUT:

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket and Brett Helquist
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
  • The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch
  • Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters by Rachel Vail and Matthew Cordell

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Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? Be sure to tune in same time next Friday for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!

Stay classy,

~S~ 8-)

Videos of the Week: “THE PERFECT BOYFRIEND?” and “HOW TO BE A SALAD!” by PewDiePie. I wonder if he’ll become the most-subbed channel on YouTube by the end of the summer. I’M BETTING YOU, FOLKS!



I love English. I’ve always had a forte for writing and reading, and I’ve been telling my own stories since the second grade. Back then all I did was draw superhero comics fueled by Captain Underpants books, but albeit it did make me iconic in the classroom, as I matured so did my writing. I went from writing superhero comics to writing real picture-less stories. Sci-fi, horror, fantasy, realistic fiction, the whole nine yards. But during my middle school years, I met a great teacher whose name was Mr. Principe. Also known as Mr. P, P Diddy, “the Fresh Prince of ELA”, and his mustachioed alter ego “Prince”. He (Mr. P) called what he taught not English, but ELA (English language arts), but he taught it well. He gave me counsel and tips of how to make my writing more exciting (hey that rhymed), and his classroom doubled as a welcome reading environment. He had not one but three shelves of books crammed with novels including The Ear, The Eye, and the ArmEnder’s Game, HolesHIVE, and the first two Mysterious Benedict Society books. A couple of months ago, after finishing Max Cassidy: Escape from Shadow Island as a read-aloud story, he introduced us to this novel. I’ll never forget it.

Smells Like Dog, written by the author of Coffeehouse Angel and To Catch A Mermaid, revolves around the wild misadventure-filled romp that is the life of Homer Winslow Pudding. Yes, his last name really is Pudding. Homer is a countryside boy who lives on a goat farm in Milkydale with his parents and his sister Gwen, who is an aspiring taxidermist. Homer’s uncle Drake was eaten alive by a carnivorous mutant tortoise, and he aspires to be a treasure hunter like his uncle was, much against his father’s preferences. A man named Mr. Twaddle shows up at Homer’s door with his condolences and a single keepsake to inherit–a basset hound named Dog who has a very special coin on his collar. The catch about Dog is that he has no sense of smell, but when Homer leaves for the city to search for Rumpold Smeller’s treasure, he discovers his buddy’s true powers as he searches for the answers with a single clue: L.O.S.T. However, the treasure will not be an easy sweep, because every Peter Pan has his Captain Hook. In this case, Hook would be Madame la Director, who wants the treasure all for herself. Along the way Homer meets three new friends: Laura Lee (a pink-haired tomato soup girl), Ajitabh the Cloud Man (you heard me), and Zelda. No, not Zelda from Legend of Zelda (I wish), but the tall deep-voiced Zelda. With a band of unlikely companions, could Homer defeat Madame once and for all to save the treasure? Or will her diabolical plans come to fruition?

 

“A fantastic tale in every good sense of the word…both exhilarating and soulful.” – Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Reach Me

“Full of fantastic characters…delightful humor, and wonderful adventures, this book is a treasure.” – Sarah Beth Durst, author of SFWA Andre Norton Award finalists Into the Wild and Ice

PRESENTATION: Smells Like Dog seemed like it was a modern-day Huckleberry Finn at first, but it turned into a fast-paced and mystery-filled adventure that had me second guessing along the way. Selfors molds her characters with astounding detail, well tracing Homer’s relationships with his friends in such a way that you’ll be mowing through numerous chapters at a time. (10/10)

STORY: A very unorthodox approach to the middle-grade adventure genre, both for better and for worse. The upside is, it’s a unique story with a staggering amount of detail that supports over 300 pages of story telling. The downside is, Selfors creates her story with so much detail that I very often found myself lost within the story’s events. I’m trying to recall a minor event as I type. Maybe that one time at the elevator where–er, maybe when Homer met Laura and–uh, see what I mean? Also, some of the story plot lines are just unrealistic. I’m pretty sure those cloudcopters should’ve been a red flag. (8/10)

FUN: Smells Like Dog is as fun to read as it is to picture, and with over 300 pages of adventure you can create a pretty good painting around that. Visiting the lair, the Realm of Reptiles, and other places is a blast with Selfor’s creative detail. (10/10)

STYLE: Aside from major detail and great storytelling, Homer’s adventure isn’t really that “stylish”. I’m not imagining like “James Bond walks away as an explosion occurs behind him” stylish. I’m imagining like “the story has some fluidity to it” stylish. However, it’s so heavily written that when I tried to swim in its seas of fluidity, I drowned. (9/10)

QUANTITY/QUALITYSmells Like Dog is nearly 400 pages long. Read my statements above and do the math. Alright, I’ll make an algebraic equation: say = story, = detail, = fluidity, and q = quality. If  sd – f + q = this book, solve for the variables.  (10/10)

FINAL VERDICTSmells Like Dog is one of the most innovative adventure novels you’ll ever read, a whimsical romp of an action-packed mystery that does heavy lifting with its detail for better and for worse. A rewarding read only for the most skilled readers, or those who enjoy stories about dogs and/or adventures. (9/10)

FINAL SCORE: Suzanne Selfors’ Smells Like Dog receives a 56/60, which is a 93% score that gives the book the final grade of an A.

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Well, how about that for a Sammwak double feature? Anyway, make sure to tune in next Friday for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak! I say Friday because I’ll be leaving again this weekend to Illinois, and I don’t have anything scheduled for next Monday. If it’ll be another double feature, I don’t know. But it’s safe to say you’ll dig what we’re cooking up next!

Stay classy America,

~S~ 8-)

P.S. Want to check out some more Suzanne Selfors books?

  • Smells Like Treasure - When the moment Homer has been waiting for–finally becoming a true adventurer–arrives, he is set back by an unexpected foe who starts a battle where the one who solves the clues and finds the loot first will win the prize of becoming an adventurer.
  • Smells Like Pirates - In what could be the finale for the three-part adventure of Homer and Dog, Homer finds himself closer than ever to Rumpold Smeller’s treasure. But when a bitter enemy forms a villainous organization called FOUND, the duo is caught at a gripping decision: either join the dark side to find the prize, or ditch their lifelong quest to find the treasure.
  • To Catch A Mermaid - Since his mother died in a tornado, Boom Broom doesn’t think his life could suck any more. When he finds a baby mermaid that grants infinite wishes, his sister Mertyle is hit by the curse of the merfolk, and Boom and his friend Winger must return the baby mermaid to her mother before it’s too late to break the curse.
  • Fortune’s Magic Farm - When Isabelle discovers she is the heir to Fortune’s Farm, a place where magic remnants grow, she finds an opportunity to break away from her mundane life working at an umbrella factory. Isabelle’s new home full of curative cherry trees and flying fronds looks like paradise, she must harvest the powers of the farm to bring back the sun and stop the despicable Mr. Supreme, owner of the umbrella factory.

Video of the Week: Adande Thorne, aka Swoozie, is probably one of the greatest vloggers on YouTube. Ever since February 2006 he’s been uploading fragments of his life story, and since last year he began using animations to tell his stories. This way was much better for his channel and scraped together millions of hits. This is probably Swoozie’s first video ever that doesn’t tell some part of his life story. Here’s the setup: Swoozie plays the driver of a girl named Alyvia, and as he drives her to an undisclosed location he is suddenly confronted in the middle of the road by a duo of armed diamond thieves. You’ll never believe the ending.

One of the diamond thieves (the guy in the front seat) was Cameron Magruder (better known as Scooter Magruder), who is also a great vlogger. In case you don’t know him, he was a YouTube Next Vlogger who’s been featured on The Today Show, the Orlando Sentinel, the Huffington Post, and even NBA TV! Here are a couple of videos to get yourself recognized with him:

 

 



Hey guys it’s Sam. Back last year I made a post where the good ole Bookie made a post summing up all of the good books that were coming out that year. Now, I’m here to bring it again, and now you won’t have to wait for most of the novels–they will most likely already be out, and I want to introduce my comrades to some new books. So for now, enjoy this delicious smoothie of chopped, crunched, and blended book-world news of what’s cooking this year.

Mind Games (Mind Games, #1)

I’m a huge fan of fast-paced sci-fi thriller novels like Maximum Ride and Witch & Wizard so I think I’d dig this one. This one came out back in February, so it’s gotten lots of time to sink into the mainstream quicksand. You could call this the novelization of Inception if you wanted to, but the latest novel from young adult author Kiersten White really messes with your mind. Mind Games (or Sister Assassin for non-Americans) is a fast-paced psychological thriller starring Fia, whose first impulse to go with her gut is always correct. Annie, Fia’s sister, is sightless to her surrounding world–she only opens her eyes when her mind whizzes with odd visions of the future. The two sisters are taken into a school that uses superhuman females as weapons of corporate espionage, where they must decide repeatedly to use their strange abilities in horrific ways or to risk their lives and fight the system–no matter what the cost.

Young-adult authors might remember Kiersten White as the author of Paranormalcy, an urban fantasy trilogy that introduced her to the world of books and turned her into a NY Times bestselling author. The final novel, Endlessly (how ironic), concluded the saga last year and White is currently making plans for a Paranormalcy film. MTV Music Video Award-winning director Ray Kay is set to direct the movie.

The book received mixed reviews. High praise was given for its spy-fi elements and well-suited ending, but high criticism was given for pretty much everything else, most notably the plain characterization.

Mila 2.0 (MILA 2.0, #1)

Speaking of sci-fi thriller, that brings us to our next novel which came out back in March. In the writing debut of Debra Driza, Mila 2.0, the titular character lives with her mom in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her harrowing past of being created in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do the humanly impossible. But when Mila discovers her shocking secret, she must flee. Flee from the dangerous operatives who want her dead because she knows too much. Flee from the mysterious group that wants to capture her and unlock her tech. But Mila’s hidden powers will surprise you (and her), and they might just save her life. Her artificially intelligent life.

Mila 2.0 is just the start. Driza plans on making two more books starring Mila to form a Mila 2.0 trilogy. Goodreads described the book as “the first book in a Bourne Identity-style trilogy that combines heart-pounding action with a riveting exploration of what it really means to be human.” They recommended the novel for fans of I Am Number Four, and said that the book’s gripping ending would pave the way for Mila’s second adventure and have readers hungry for more. I guess there really was more to Mila than met my eyes.

The book received generally positive reviews. Its fast-paced action and heart-racing adrenaline rushes were lauded, but its romance overemphasis and lack of emotional connections were noted as something that could’ve been finessed.

Take Timmy Failure, the clueless and confident CEO of the best detective agency in the nation town. Throw in his partner, an imaginary friend in the form of a polar bear named Total. Throw in Timmy’s mom’s Segway the Failuremobile, and what you have is Total Failure Incorporated, a global enterprise designed to make Timmy wealthy enough to prevent his mom from stressing over bills. But of course, his plan does not include the 4′-tall lady who we shall call She Who Must Not Be Named. Nor does it include Rollo Tookus, who cannot carry out a super-easy spy mission due to his obsession with getting into “Stanfurd”. Stephan Pastis makes a stunning and charming departure from Pearls Before Swine with Timmy Failure: Mistakes Are Made, “the kids’ comedy of the year”. Here are a couple notable blurbs that would look great on the back of the book:

“Timmy Failure is a winner!” – Jeff Kinney, author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid

“Seldom has failure been so likable–or funny.” – Wall Street Journal

“…a great story starring an unforgettable protagonist whose unorthodox approach to detective work (and world domination) will have readers in stitches.” – Lincoln Peirce, author of Big Nate

“Readers should be simultaneously amused and touched by this quirky antihero.” – Booklist

“Pastis has assembled an eccentric and funny cast (running gags revolve around Total’s voracious appetite and a librarian who looks like one of the Hell’s Angels), yet there are also touching interactions to be found…” – Publishers Weekly

Timmy Failure received generally positive reviews. Its well-written humor and charm factors were positively recognized by critics, but some flat characterization and peculiar usage of archaic references were also dissected.

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)

You may recognize Marissa Meyer as the unique author of the sci-fi romance novel Cinder (the start of the Lunar Chronicles), which was one of Indie-Bound’s Kids Next List picks for last winter. But the story of our favorite cyborg heroine is not yet over, as her story continues into Scarlet, the thrilling sequel which came out in February. Now after discovering a shocking secret, Cindy’s trying to break out of the clutches of prison in New Beijing (this was after World War IV), but she’ll be the most-wanted fugitive of the Commonwealth even if she succeeds. Halfway around the Earth, Scarlet Benoit has a missing grandma. It turns out there’s a lot Scarlet doesn’t know about Grandma B, nor of the grim danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet meets a street fighter named Wolf who may or may not have the whereabouts of Scarlet’s grandma, she is reluctant to believe Wolf. However, the two are drawn together in some sort of relationship. After Scarlet and Wolf solve one mystery, they run into another when they come across Cindy herself. Now this misfit trio must stay one step ahead Queen Levana, female ruler of the moon colony Luna. That introduces the book’s side plot, where she is attempting to make Kai (the prince of New Beijing) give into his pressures of marrying Levana or evoking a World War V.

In spite of its slow start, the novel received critical acclaim for its deep and complex story, a shrewd and surprising backstory, and impeccable fairy-tale weaving that made it impossible for most people to put Scarlet down. People are still coming up with ideas of how the brand new characters could play vital roles in the final half of the four-part Lunar Chronicles.

Unremembered (Unremembered, #1)

Jessica Brody began writing and “publishing” novels at the age of seven, using materials like cardboard and electrical tape to turn her into an amateur bookbinder. She is no stranger to the world of young adult books–she’s written three already–but this story is her most stellar and unorthodox departure yet. In Unremembered, the beginning of Brody’s new sci-fi saga, a flight courtesy of Freedom Airlines ends horribly and unexpectedly with a crash over the Pacific. No one ever suspected to find survivors among the wreck, and that’s why the sole survivor of the crash has made global headlines. That survivor was 16-year old Seraphina. However, her body shows no signs of the crash, but here’s the kicker–she doesn’t remember boarding the plane. In fact, she doesn’t remember anything before the crash, let alone at all. No one knows why she wasn’t on the passenger manifest, nor can anyone locate her DNA or fingerprints in a single database on Earth. As this astray amnesiac attempts to piece together her empty past, befuddled by a world she doesn’t know and an ominous threat she can’t remember, she discovers an odd boy who claims to have known her before the crash. A boy who claims they were in a relationship. Sera must decide whether or not this boy can be trusted, and if he can protect her from those who have been making her forget.

It turns out you really can’t judge a book by the cover, as Unremembered turned out with very mixed reception. People praised it for having the elements of a sci-fi gem, but criticized it for being an orthodox story that brought nothing unique to the action-thriller genre,  and how its intellectual properties (planning and thoughts) were in over their heads. Oh, and it came out in March.

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin

If you’re like me, you’re very familiar with the fantasy subgenre of “fractured fairy tale”. These kinds of books put twists on classic fairy tales and mend interesting and unexpected worlds around them, taking the original stories to whole ‘nother levels. Examples include Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted, and Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm/In A Glass Grimmly. Coincidentally, this story was made for fans of those books. Now rising fantasy star Liesl Shurtliff has given a twist on a classic Grimm story: Rump. This came out just a couple of weeks ago, so it’s probably ankle-deep in the mainstream quicksand. Now, Rump isn’t just short for Rumpelstiltskin–in a magic kingdom where names are destinies, he literally is the rump of everyone’s jokes. But his luck changes when he finds an archaic spinning wheel–he discovers he can spin straw into gold. His best friend whom we’ll call Red (hint hint) warns him of the magic’s darkest dangers, and she’s right. With each spun thread, Rump obliviously weaves himself deeper and deeper into a curse. To break the curse, he must go on a dangerous quest and fight off pixies, trolls, poisonous apples, and a maliciously foolish queen.

Rump got positive reception for having the fun side that most stories fail to have, full of delightful adventures and hidden messages such as greed and friendship.

Pulse (Pulse, #1)

From the look of this cover, you may already tell this has something to do with sci-fi. Well, if you guessed that, you’re right. This is indeed a sci-fi story called Pulse from the author of Skeleton Creek, which came out in February. 38 years from now, the world is still recognizable. No world wars, no apocalypse, no Republics or Capitols–I’m assuming. Well, the country has been split into two “super States” (what.), and protagonist Faith Daniels attends what is little more than a teenage daycare. In the future, select teens have “pulses” which grant them with the power to move things with their minds. In other words, they’re telekinetic. Faith discovers that she has a pulse with the help of a mysterious classmate named Dylan. Faith uses her powers against telekinetic masters so powerful they could pancake their enemies using uprooted street lights and shifted boulders. But even with a pulse, the mind can be hard to control. So can the heart. If Faith and Dylan want to combine forces and save the world of the future, she must harness both and discover that real power comes from within.

Reception for Pulse was mixed to negative. Its unexplained future was heavily panned alongside its conspicuous lack of action-packed adventure, plus its underwhelming characters and relationships and a greatly deceiving synopsis. In fact, here’s how one Goodreads user put it: “…almost non-existent adventure (unless you consider moving cups with your mind adventure), poor and mostly unlikable and under-developed characters and extremely unhealthy relationships.” Wow, is a story about telekinesis and saving the world that bad?

Also, the finale for Laurie Halse Anderson’s award-winning Seeds of America trilogy (started by Chains and continued by Forge) is forthcoming. It’s going to be called Ashes, and the plot is as of now unknown. The book may be releasing this year as opposed to 2014, but I guess we need to stay tuned for those news.

Ah, finally. We’ve saved the best for last. People who mowed through the Hunger Games trilogy and were starving for more turned Veronica Roth’s Divergent into an award-winning NY Times bestseller. When the book’s sequel Insurgent came out, people turned that into yet another award-winning bestseller. The two books became so successful that Roth is currently planning for a Divergent movie! (Check her Twotter feed to stay tuned. Yeah, I did that on purpose.) But now, after months of theories and guesses, Roth’s epic finale to her trilogy is coming this October–Allegiant. Yeah, Roth sarcastically gave the book the name of Detergent, but some people thought it was called Convergent, and that’s how this came up:

Anyway, check out Amazon’s and Goodreads’ summary to the explosive end to Roth’s smashing saga. (Oh, like my amazing alliteration?)

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The explosive conclusion to Veronica Roth’s #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy reveals the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

Stay tuned and stay hungry for Allegiant when it hits stores October 22. But for now, here’s a link to Roth’s Twotter:

https://twitter.com/VeronicaRoth

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That was fun! If you plan on reading any of my recommended books, post it in the comments below. Make sure to subscribe if you’re new, and don’t forget–press the like button. Now just stay tuned until next time to get more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak!

Stay classy America,

~S~ 8-)

Video of the Week: If you’ve stuck with me long enough, you probably know who Nick Bertke is. He’s the greatest mixer of all time, that’s who he is. He goes under the stage name Pogo (his channel’s called “Fagottron”), and although he has less than 250,000 subs, his videos have gotten millions of hits and millions of fans for his unique remixes of movies and TV shows. His best works include remixes of Harry PotterMary PoppinsAlice in Wonderland (1951), and Snow White & the 7 Dwarfs. Today’s video of the week is a Pogo remix from two years ago with nearly 750,000 hits. It’s a remix of HR Pufnstuf. If you don’t know what that is, sit back and enjoy this lesson.

Back in the 60s, there were these people named Sid & Marty Krofft. They made a show called HR Pufnstuf, which ran in 1969 on NBC. Yes, I said NBC. However, the show was so successful it stayed on the Saturday morning schedule until 1972. The show’s about a boy named Jimmy who takes his magic flute named Freddy and rides a boat to Living Island, where everything from clocks to houses are anthropomorphic. The island’s mayor is a dragon whom is the title character of the show, who takes Jimmy in to protect him from the show’s antagonist Witchiepoo. In a nutshell, it’s basically a psychedelic Sesame Street.

Because I love you guys so much, here’s the Bonus Video of the Week. It’s another Pogo remix, but you should be able to tell what got remixed from the name of the video.

Sam out.



Back last year, I did a full review of the Bone graphic novel saga by Jeff Smith, one of the best graphic novelists I know. In case you don’t have time for playbacks, here’s what I scored each book (remember, this was the old template):

  • Out from Boneville - “an energetic start to a great graphic novel series…” (20/30)
  • The Great Cow Race - “…the best book of the pack!” (30/30)
  • Eyes of the Storm - “…the darkest addition yet.” (24.5/30)
  • The Dragonslayer - “…may not be the best Bone book since The Great Cow Race, but it’s a full-fleshed attempt at it” (24/30)
  • Rock Jaw - “…great premise and dazzling excitements” (22/30)
  • Old Man’s Cave - “…a barbaric warrior…with well-played action, adventure, and drama” (26/30)
  • Ghost Circles - “…a good wallop of laughs, action, adventure, and excitement that will definitely go into the scrapbook.” (23.1/30)
  • Treasure Hunters - “…solely the lowlight of the Bone saga.” (17.5/30)
  • Crown of Horns - “…a mightily entertaining–and epic–conclusion.” (23/30)

Now I’m back to review another graphic novel, from the same Scholastic imprint that’s been with Mr. Smith since the start. This one has to be one of the most unique comic novels I’ve ever read–and it’s not just because it introduces a new writing style or has vivid pictures. It has both of those, don’t get me wrong. But here’s the reason why it really stuck out to me–it’s not a wild over-the-top fantasy like Bone or Amulet–it’s an autobiographical story, a memoir! Eat Pray LoveDiary of a Young GirlRunning With ScissorsMarley & Me: A Dog Like No Other, those are all memoirs. But none of those tell a story quite like this.

Released in February 2010 by Raina Telgemeier and Scholastic/Graphix, and based off of Smile: A Dental Drama, a webcomic created by Telgemeier, Smile is an auto-bio that takes place during the 1980s and early 1990s, following Raina’s years from a preteen to a real teen. One night after a Girl Scout meeting, Raina’s friends race her to the porch. However, Raina trips and falls right onto the side of the road, busting out one of her front teeth and jamming the other up into her gum. What follows is nearly five years of on-off braces, surgery, ignominious headgear, even a retainer with false teeth! However, Raina’s dental drama is only a portion of her problems–a gnarly earthquake leaves her town shaken and stirred, Raina begins to notice two big crushes, and friends who turn out to be not very friendly. The story evolves with Raina as she goes into high school, finds her true artistic voice and real friendship, and finds a place where she can really smile.

Check out this interesting picture of Raina that offers an inside look at her teeth! I’ll have you know folks, this was in summer 1989! She was 12 years old!

PRESENTATION: Smile was the breakthrough for an inglorious author, and it’s easy to see why. Raina tells her story clearly without any narrative exposition (okay, so a few helpful names here and there), and she writes it in such a way that you can feel the emotions she’s feeling. The terror in her eyes during the earthquake when the floor begins to tremble under her feet. The amazement in her eyes when she sees The Little Mermaid for the first time. The sorrow in her eyes when she has to replace her real teeth with false teeth. The anger in her eyes when she stands up to her not-so-friendly friends. Raina tells this story impeccably and powerfully, in a way that’s just as unique as the premise itself. The illustrating work done with Raina and Steph Yue (whom provided the pictures’ color) has to be one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in a graphic novel. Not as simplistic as Captain Underpants, not as detailed as Bone, but a nice balance in between the two. (10/10)

STORY: Same main ideas. Also, some people may be able to relate to the story such as people who are bullied at school, going through orthodontic treatment, and the like. (10/10)

FUN: Raina cracks a few jokes here and there to keep readers smiling. Also, since Raina’s story takes place in the 80’s and 90’s, there are tons of pop culture references, some more blatant than others. Raina owns an NES and is seen playing Super Mario Bros and Wizards & Warriors. Raina’s sister unsuccessfully tries to persuade her to buy DuckTales. Q*bertKid Icarus, and NES Soccer also make cameo appearances at the store. (10/10)

STYLE: Time for some restating. The humor and drama come in packs, and Smile puts up a fine balance between light-hearted humor and realistic drama. The book has ravishing illustrations that make everything look more down-to-earth. (10/10)

QUANTITY/QUALITY: Smile may not be told in real chapters, but it feels like Raina’s life is being told step by step, chapter by chapter, week by week. It has a great story to tell, and the quality of it is–dude, we’ve been over this. Giddy humor, raw drama, amazing illustrations, great connections, blah blah blah.  (10/10)

FINAL VERDICT: Smile is one of the best graphic novels you’ll ever read, telling a powerful story mixed with giddy humor and realistic drama and emotion, topped off with great illustrations that make this book a true gem among Scholastic’s Graphix lineup. (10/10)

FINAL SCORE: I, Sammwak, am proud to give Raina Telgemeier’s Smile the first ever JGB 2.0 perfect score, 60/60, which gets it an automatic A+. Raina really deserved it, but hopefully after her Girl Scout meetings she remembers to walk to the porch this time. Heck, to show you how good this book really is, I’m gonna give it a seal of approval!

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Anyway, that’s a wrap for this week here at Sammwak! Have an awesome Spring Break, and I’ll see you next week (hopefully)!

Stay classy America,

~S~ 8-)

Video of the Week: I was gonna put up a Harlem Shake this week, but then today my art teacher showed me this. It’s a 6-minute short film called Pigeon Impossible, about a young man who is a rookie secret agent I’ll call Discount Jake Gyllenhaal. Now, Discount Jake here is dealing with a problem that most rookies don’t come around–what happens when an inquisitive little pigeon makes its way inside your nuclear, government-issued, multi-million-dollar briefcase? Find out in this video that’s already gone viral with 1.8 million hits.

Oh, what the hey, here’s the greatest Harlem Shake you’ll probably ever see in the history of the universe EVER. Also, it might be the final Harlem Shake. Take a click to see why.



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